Derek Coveney is following his mission to support and offer hope to others. He recently returned from providing emergency flood relief and clean up with Team Rubicon USA in some of the hardest hit areas in Texas following Hurricane Harvey. Entire neighborhoods and large expanses of Houston were flooded for weeks and he saw an opportunity to offer hope to those who lost everything.
Derek, now 21, a paid call Halifax firefighter, doesn’t come from a line of public servants. In fact he didn’t know that he would be a firefighter at all, but at the age of ten his world changed.
“10 years ago this October 5th will be my mom’s anniversary. She suffered a brain aneurysm. I found her having a seizure on the floor. She survived the incident and does have physical limits but that is when I realized what I wanted to be.
I had the Halifax Fire Department here in my house helping me-us,” he said.
Two long- time Halifax firefighters, Andy Scanlon, now a Pembroke firefighter, and Captain Bosworth gave Coveney hope in a time of crisis and later gave him inspiration to discover his passion to become a first responder.
“It was really cool having the Halifax firefighters there and now I am that person,” he said.
“I saw as a kid that firefighters brought that comfort and I wanted to be that person for someone else. It is amazing. I love being able to be that person … to give someone a chance and not feel hopeless. “
With his service in Texas, he was in charge of a small group who were ripping out wallboard, debris and anything that water may have touched.
The assistance was for some of the many financially challenged areas, some families who did not have insurance to assist with the demolitions.
“We saw that hopeless and helpless look on many faces,” said Coveney.
“We go in and provide ‘muck outs’, which is tearing out anything that has been damaged in the floods, interior debris removal and full demo services. Although the debris is someone’s belongings … that is their stuff, “ he said.
Seeing the immense piles of debris taking up the width of entire streets with water receding was an eye opening, and sometimes emotional, experience for them.
“Seeing resilience as these families came back from being flooded in previous storms, that struck me as amazing.
Nothing compares to working with guys who are there to make a difference. There was a lot of emotions,” he said.
“We tried to show them (the residents) we had boots on the ground. We were instilling some hope – we were there to help. Many people lost everything.”
As an incident commander over his volunteers, Coveney said the group offered a vast spectrum of all walks of life – “coming together and bonding like you can never believe,” he said.
There are many volunteers that come out. Team Rubicon is doing extremely hard labor and they are happy doing it. They come from all walks of life, many retired or current first responders.
A graduate of Silver Lake Regional High, class of 2014, Coveney learned in high school about becoming a first responder.
“They allowed me to be a cadet in the high school for three years. I would go after school to see how the fire service worked. I became a volunteer and I’m continuing to serve. I received the opportunity to be a firefighter and paramedic … the program got my foot in the door.”
His goal is to eventually become a full time firefighter.
He is looking forward to helping more people in future deployments.
In a statement from his fire chief:
“I’m very proud of Derek and the way he has stepped up to help the people of Texas. He exemplifies what is means to be a public servant,” said Halifax Fire Chief Jason Viveiros.
About Team Rubicon:
“Founded in 2010, Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. With over 48,000 volunteers across the country, Team Rubicon has responded to over 200 disasters across the United States and the world,” according to the Team Rubicon USA website/ Harvey relief. www.teamrubiconusa.org.